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to clear off the £113,000, which was his share of indebtedness. Not to mention such comparatively small pieces of work as Quarterly articles, which Sir Walter always had on hand, and the Prefaces and Notes he was beginning to prepare for the re-issue of the novels, he was working upon his Life of Napoleon as well as on Woodstock. The first of these was as yet only in its earlier stages; the latest Waverley we shall come to presently. Meanwhile, a task of more ephemeral interest was exercising much of Scott's energies, and attracting a considerable amount of attention. This was an attack-which proved successful-upon the proposal of the Ministry to check speculation, by taking away from private banks the power of issuing notes. Scott resented it as an infringement of Scottish independence, and doubtless felt glad of an opportunity to show his appreciation of the consideration the bankers had shown towards himself. But it brought him into conflict with his own political friends at a time when there was a possibility of his being offered a seat on the Scottish bench.
The three Letters of Malachi Malagrowther, printed at first in Ballantyne's paper and afterwards published as a pamphlet by Blackwood, have been compared to those Drapier's Letters in which Swift assailed Wood's halfpence, and are said to have excited the public more than any political tract since Burke's attack on the French Revolution. Scott's old Quarterly friend, John Wilson Croker, replied to them on behalf of the Govern
ment; but the agitation which they kindled compelled the dropping of the proposed measure so far as it applied to Scotland. Lockhart thought that their composition gave Scott as much pleasure as anything he ever wrote. He set about the business in the spirit of Moore's Minstrel Boy, which he parodies:
"O Land of Cakes! said the Northern bard,
One faithful pen thy rights shall guard,
The first epistle was out of print before the second
appeared; about the third the author was a little diffident. But Scott was tickled at the notion of an insolvent man battling about gold and paper currency, and the success of his efforts tempts him to quote :
"When house and land are gone and spent,
And he reflects that people will not now dare to talk of so pugnacious a pamphleteer as an object of pity— "no more poor manning." He was right when he said. that if he had a passion it was pride. If the Letters
had done him some slight harm with the Lord Advocate, they at any rate brought him in serviceable current cash. They had also relieved his feelings, and they do not appear to have permanently estranged even Croker
Woodstock appeared early in the spring, and was sold for more than £8,000, which of course went to the creditors. It had been the work of barely three months --one volume was written in fifteen days; and yet, despite untoward circumstances, may be pronounced quite worthy of Scott. It compares favourably as a story with the novel which he wrote in his prime treating of almost the same period, Peveril of the Peak; and besides, has a pathetic interest which attaches to no other of the series. In Sir Henry Lee, the old and almost broken Cavalier Ranger of Woodstock, and his relations with his daughter Alice, it is impossible not to recognise a reflection of the feeling subsisting between Sir Walter and his daughter Anne at this disastrous crisis of their fortunes. Sir Henry has Shakespeare as often in his mouth as Scott had at the end of his pen; and we are expressly told that his noble hound Bevis was meant to represent the favourite deerhound Maida, dead two years before. The dog, Glengarry's gift, whose features have been preserved by Landseer, is thus lovingly pictured in his old age by his master in Woodstock:
"We must not omit one other remarkable figure in the group [viz. of the Lee family after the Restoration]-a gigantic dog,
which bore the signs of being at the extremity of canine life, being perhaps fifteen or sixteen years old. But though exhibiting the ruin only of his former appearance, his eyes dim, his joints stiff, his head slouched down, and his gallant carriage and graceful motions exchanged for a stiff, rheumatic, hobbling gait, the noble hound had lost none of his instinctive fondness for his master. To lie by Sir Henry's feet in the summer or by the fire in the winter, to raise his head to look on him, to lick his withered hand or his shrivelled cheek from time to time, seemed now all that Bevis lived for."
As a historical romance, if not of Sir Walter's best, Woodstock is by no means of his worst, and the portrait of Ephraim Holdenough, the Presbyterian divine, is alone sufficient to vindicate him from the charge of being unable to do justice to any but Cavaliers. The young Charles, moreover, is no whit idealised; but of course he was not in sober fact at Woodstock after his flight from Worcester. One wishes that Scott had traced his earlier adventures in Stirling Castle and the North generally. As for Cromwell, though he cannot be said to live as do the author's greatest creations, a gallant attempt has certainly been made to render some traits of his inscrutable character; and if he is not the demi-god of Carlyle, neither is he the malignant hypocrite of the Hume tradition. The way in which some of the characters talk (and I am afraid that Alice Lee herself must be named as an offender) savours of the theatrical, though the present writer is certainly not one to denounce Scott's eloquence as incompatible with naturalness.
In the early stages of the work Scott was worried by Ballantyne's adverse criticism, and had doubts himself: "I wish I could open a good vein of interest
But as he
which would breathe freely," he confesses. went on, he wrote himself into good humour with his task; and his readers will, I think, agree with him that "the end winds out well enough," and that the book is better than some of its predecessors.